I found the perfect bones…and my new favorite soup: oxtail!

Oh yes…it was a bit of an accident, but a happy one at that…I found the perfect bones for GAPSTM stock! I found the perfect bones for a nutrient-dense stock! I was in my local butcher shop, my local grass-fed only butcher shop and there they were…on the top shelf, calling to me. But first things first.

What is GAPSTM and what is the perfect stock for GAPSTM? I call GAPSTM a healing protocol. Short for the Gut and Psychology Syndrome, it aims to heal the gut lining and cure all sorts of dis-eases in the body including Autism, ADD, AD/HD, Aspberger’s, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, depression, allergies and auto-immune disorders. I have been making stock for a long time, and GAPSTM stock, or stock you make for yourself when you are on the GAPSTM diet is a special kind of stock to me. I will endeavor to explain.

When you make “bone broth”, or “nutrient-dense stock”, your goal is a volume of gelatinous stock (or a demi glace, but that is not usual.) Bones and vegetables are discarded after a long “rolling” or simmering…often 40-60 hours or more. When you are making GAPSTM stock, there are five things you are looking for: the stock, gelatin, tendons, meat and fat. You make the stock so that you may drink it or use it as the base of soups and stews. You may eat the gelatin in cubes if the stock is made well, just like jello! (Believe it or not, that red dye no. 5, high-fructose corn syrup laden cherry jello they serve to convalescing patients in hospitals has its origin in real gelatin from real stock! It is a truly healing food! How far we have digressed…) You are also to eat the tendons, the meat and the fat. It takes a special kind of bone to give you tendons, meat, and fat. And I have found it. The ox tail. (The bison tail works, too.)

Ox tails or bison tails make the best stock because they give everything you need: stock, gel, cartilage and tendons, meat, and fat. And oh, do they give FLAVOR.

So back to my story. A package of ox tail called to me from the top shelf of the refrigerator. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. Rich, red meat, beautiful white fat throughout, and lots of cartilage and tendons. I salivated as I saw it and I salivate as I write now.

I had never made oxtail soup or oxtail broth. I had never seen oxtail. I remember having oxtail soup when I was young, but when I asked mom about it the other day, it was a packaged soup mix. So I was on my own.

I consulted some cookbooks and then decided to strike out on my own…and it was tremendous. Stupendous. Unbelievably delicious. Deeply nourishing. The whole family delighted in it. My six year old said his “tummy was dancing” it was so happy. It was “the best soup I ever made”. Soooooooooo on to the recipe.

Oxtail is so heavy in fat, that you will have to cool it before you use it in a soup. So it’s a two step process, like any other good soup. Make the stock and then make the soup. But you’ll be saving and eating much of what you made the stock with.

Recipe I: Oxtail Stock

2 pounds of oxtail or bison tail, cut into 1 inch pieces

3 carrots, scrubbed and coarsely chopped

3 celery ribs, coarsely chopped

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

You may choose to brown the oxtail before you make the stock. This will serve to intensify the flavor and color of your stock. Variation 1: Place the oxtails on a sheet pan and bake in a 350 F oven for 30-45 minutes, or Variation 2: melt some tallow, lard, or pastured butter in a skillet and brown both sides of the oxtail.

If you brown the oxtail, be sure to scrape all the juices and fat into the pan. Do not discard them.

So put the oxtail into a 6-8 quart Dutch oven and cover with water. Add the vegetables. Bring to a boil, skim and discard the scum. Lower heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 20 hours.

Strain and cool. Reserve all the meat and discard the vegetables. Chop the meat and fat and tendons and keep in a bowl or container while the stock cools. (Note: this step may take several hours or overnight in order to allow the fat to cool and harden.)

When the stock has cooled, take off the layer of fat and reserve for cooking (or adding back in to the oxtail soup when you make it.)

Recipe II: Oxtail Soup

2-3 quarts oxtail stock (or beef stock if you don’t have oxtail stock)

2-3 carrots, finely diced

2-3 celery ribs, finely diced

1-2 medium potato or turnip, finely diced

thyme, about 2 tsp dried or 2 T fresh

Celtic salt, to taste

freshly ground pepper

cayenne pepper, pinch

port or brandy, 2 T, (optional)

tomato paste, organic, about 3 T

reserved oxtail meat and fat

Place everything into a soup pot except the tomato paste, optional port and meat. Bring to a boil and skim and discard scum. Lower to a simmer and cover. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Add tomato paste and stir until incorporated. Add optional port and meat and allow to heat through, about 4-5 minutes.

Serve with prepared horseradish, fresh ground pepper and sea salt. You may wish to add a tablespoon of fermented ketchup to your bowl just prior to that first bite! I did!

Hints: Grow Your Soup!

So you’ve enjoyed your first night of oxtail soup (or any other stock based soup) and there is a bit left, but not enough for another meal. Add more stock-oxtail or beef in this case- and a bit more tomato paste and thyme. It will not be as thick, but it will taste as good!

Another hint: if you need a hearty second meal, add some soaked wild or brown rice to the hint above. Now you’ve got a stew!


This is a square of oxtail stock. I cut a square of gelled stock out of the bowl.



Filed under Food, Recipes

52 responses to “I found the perfect bones…and my new favorite soup: oxtail!

  1. Johanna Valenzuela

    Hi Monica!

    You told last Friday’s class about your oxtail soup, so I decided to look it up! I’m surprised you don’t let the tails soak with some vinegar first. Will you please clarify this?

    By the way, what a beautiful cube you cut!

    • Johanna Valenzuela

      Oops. I suppose this is in accordance to the GAPS diet. 🙂

    • Hi Johanna,
      thanks for your note! Yes, it is in accordance with GAPS. But also, if you have ever seen/used oxtail, there is not a lot of bone for the vinegar to get to! Lots of cartilage. Lots of gorgeous fat. Lots of meat. Not too much bone. Certainly not compared to those huge beef bones I was working with last Friday! be well, Monica

    • Oxtail soup is a traditional korean soup made in a big pot made for an entire family to eat for a lweek. I like your take on it but love the simplicity of how its traditionally made. You should try it the traditional korean way. Typically you let it soak in water for a while then add to big pot with cover closed until you see holes in the bones and meat is falling off then serve with green onions chopped up and salt and pepper to taste. My mom used the broth for other soups as well like yuk gae jang

      • Btw I will be making your recipe and am excited to tey it thanks

        • Also I found your blog because I was eating oxtails and was avoiding what I thought was fat but my mom kept telling me it wasnt fat its goot for you and I should chew it all up and eat it cause its the best part I think she was talking about the tendons could you explain the differencer between the tendons and fat cause their both white ones chewy the other melts but I thought they were one in the same

          • The tendons and connective tissues will dissolve into the stock and makes it gelatinous. The fat will also dissolve (most of it, depending on how much fat there is–) but will rise to the top, and when you refrigerate it, it will solidify on top of the gelatinous stock. You can then choose to pop off the fat, and melt it down and use it in cooking. It is all good for you! Enjoy~

        • great!!
          Let me know how it goes!

      • Hi Johanna!
        Thank you for that. I’ll look into Korean versions!

  2. Hi Monica,

    Should I chop up the tendons and fat and add it back into the soup as well as the meat? What do family members say about the tendons and fat?

  3. Lauren Previdi

    Hi Monica,

    I would LOVE to know who your butcher is – would you mind sharing? I’m moving to Colorado (from Oregon) and am trying to source grassfed meat. Thanks!

  4. Katja

    Hi Monica,
    I appreciate having found your blog via Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist’s blog.
    I have a question regarding the gelling of the broth: mine didn’t gel.
    I bought 2 oxtails (beef), browned them, then very gently simmered them in my 12 quart stainless steel pot for 20 hours. The broth turned out beautiful and rich-looking; I took off the fat after it rose to the top. But – no gelatinous broth. Most of my broth doesn’t turn out gelatinous – so I’ve just recently learned to have my simmer really gentle, and not add too much water –
    do you have any more tips for me?
    Thank you,

    • Katja,

      There are many things that can go wrong with making stock. One of them is the amount of water to bones, next is the temperature at which you cooked the bones. I am betting you simmered it too low to break down the cartilage into gelatin. Remember, you want to see some movement underneath, with a generally still surface. For more ideas, you may wish to check out my book, with Love from Grandmother’s Kitchen. HTH!! be well!

      • The thing about gelatin is, if you don’t boil hard enough, it never gels, and if you let it boil too high too long, it breaks back down. You still get tons of benefits if it breaks back down, though, so as long as you know it’s had a chance to get hot enough (you know how in a crock pot on high, the water slightly boils? That would probably be ideal to this process.), you’re probably fine. The best gelled broth I ever made was by mistake as a young teenager with bone-in stew lamb. I just had a really good “simmer” (boil) going for a long time while I put together an impromtu stew. It was one of my first experiences really cooking, so it took HOURS. It was really fatty, and I ended up skimming off tons of fat (I was young and stupid!), and when I wanted to come back to it in the refrigerator, I was so confused why it had GELLED! Was it THAT fatty? I never finished that wonderful stew because I didn’t know what was going on.

  5. I was excited to learn more about this recipe this past weekend: http://www.cookingforwell-being.com/June-2-2012.html — I make an oxtail stew fairly regularly in my crock pot but, have never made this soup. I just ordered 2 oxtail today and am excited to make this recipe! Thank you for providing it – I’ll let you know how mine turns out!

  6. Kathryn

    Hi Monica,
    We follow the GAPS protocol and have made oxtail soup once after being inspired by your post. We really, really enjoyed it I am wondering why the meat should simmer for 20 hours. Does this add to the gelatinous feature of the soup?
    Thank you!

  7. Pingback: Success!! Turkey Stock Experiment | Simply Being Well

  8. Jessica

    Hi Monica,
    I’m new to the protocol. My husband and I have just started the Intro Diet (stage3) and I’m in love with oxtail broth. I used your method twice now and it’s the most gelatinous broth I’ve made yet. I’ll be trying the actual soup recipe tomorrow. Thanks for the recipes!

  9. My spouse and I stumbled over here by a different page
    and thought I might check things out. I like what I see
    so i am just following you. Look forward to finding out about your web page again.

  10. Carri

    I have a recipe for Vietnamese Oxtail Soup that I am wanting to make. I had my first experience with eating oxtail soup at the restaurant Maison de Pho and I was hooked! So I am trying to source the cheapest grass fed oxtail bones so I can make my own. In the Vietnamese version they serve it with lots of fresh basil, fresh slices of hot chilies, bean sprouts, green onions, a lime wedge and rice noodles. If you are ever wanting to taste this version find a Pho noodle house or Maison de Pho.

  11. julie starros

    Thank you for all of this wonderful information. I bought two pounds of oxtails and I am doing it purely for the gelatin. Can the gelatin be used and retain its value in other dishes if it is frozen and reused?

  12. What if you don’t have a Dutch oven?

  13. Yolans

    Is it ok to make in my crock pot?

  14. can anyone tell me why a pressure cooker should not be used in making this soup or stock…I use my pressure cooker a lot….most soups etc…it saves me so much time as I work 12 hour shifts…

    • Hi Kathleen!
      I am not a pressure cooker user. I still abide by what I have heard all along…slow and low in cooking is best. High temperature and high pressure can destroy fragile protein molecules and bonds. I AM a crock pot user, though. You could easily put it on in the morning before you leave for your shift and it will be done when you get home.

      be well!

  15. norrine hoeffel

    Do you have to keep adding water to the oxtail while it simmers for 20hrs?

  16. Janet Pakjanet

    I’m doing this in a slow cooker and it didn’t gel – what is the appropriate water to oxtail ratio? I had a pound and a half of oxtails and used 6 cups of water. The tendons are still a bit chewy and I’m wondering if I let it simmer in broth again in the slow cooker, will it gel?

    • Hi Janet!
      Sounds like you had the right amount of water—If the tendons are still chewy, then they are the reason your broth didn’t gel. The tendons need to dissolve into the broth to make it gelatinous. If you simmer it down a bit, yes, it should gel. be well!!

  17. Tammie Hattawuay

    Try an instant pot! 50-60 minutes. I had supper stew, soup for tomorrow, almost three pints of gelatinous goodness for later use!

  18. alison

    Thanx 4 the tip Monica! Love the way OX tail is good and healthy for the digestive and the lining of the gut.

  19. Does it form the cube after you let it cool in the fridge? Mines didn’t form a gelatinous cube yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s